What you didn’t hear in SoK

“Politics? No thank you”

 

Yes, politics has become nauseatingly depressing. Yes, politicians can be patronising. Yes, party
politics can be quite corrupt. Even if you dosed off throughout your SOK lessons, you still probably know this much. SOK was fun, but it didn’t really tell us how we can engage with our country. Personally, I am sick of the way political parties have took over productive debate in Malta. Right off the bat, I’d like to point out that the people who decide the SOK syllabus are the same people who should be asking for you to participate in democracy. But why would anybody even want to touch the subject of politics with a barge-pole considering how toxic it is?

Active citizenship 

In this brief article, I want to emphasise that political parties are only a small part of the world of politics. In fact, this is very broad. Here are a few examples of political stances:

  • You believe that gay people should be allowed to adopt children.
  • You believe that people should eat less meat for environmental and animal rights reasons.
  • You believe that university students should be able to get on buses for free.

If you believe in a cause, it is a fundamental human right that you can find like-minded people and organise yourselves to push your point forward. You can start an online community or forum,  old public demonstrations to spread your message, and contact your parliamentary representative who can push for policy changes. That is probably the epitome of being an active citizen in a  representative democracy.

Democracy and freedom of expression

Let’s step back a notch. Democracy, as you know, is power in the hands of the people. This isn’t limited only to elections. In fact, a necessary freedom to have in democratic countries is freedom of  expression. Think of this freedom in conjunction with the concept of power in the hands of the people. What this translates to is the importance of citizens to stay informed and criticise. There is a misconception that to be a fair, balanced and unbiased person, you have to criticise both parties. In a simple way of putting it, if you’re going to say something about one party, you had better say  something about the other. This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, extreme bias poses a serious threat to democracies. However, not only is bias a very nuanced phenomenon in media, but the  model on which citizens may criticise state action is not necessary dishing out criticism to each party equally. Why?

With great power comes great responsibility 

The Government of Malta is run by the Labour Party (deal with it, PN). What this means is that right now, the power of the people to run the Maltese government is conferred to members of the  Labour Party more than it is to the Nationalist Party. It’s clear so far that both parties don’t deserve the same level of scrutiny and criticism simply because they don’t have the same influence. Not  only do the Labour party have 9 more parliamentary seats than the Nationalist party, but Labour are also in charge of the Government and the running of the country. In a healthy democracy,  criticism should be distributed as equally as power is – quite different to the PL=PN way of distributing criticism.

Why should I care? The climate is toxic.

A big reason politics is dirty is because the two political parties are too busy bickering among themselves rather than getting anything done. Whenever one of them is accused of something, the  other just replies “but you’re worse”. Sound familiar? If you hate this way of doing politics, then you should care, because you can actually help stop it. The only reasons the two parties are allowed to continue wasting everyone’s time is because people like you, who hate that way of doing politics, don’t stand up to them. It’s easier to just ignore everything and cut off from it all, but you can’t also complain about it. Remember when I said that people with the same cause can get together to put pressure to change things? Activist groups are doing just that.

Politics isn’t your thing? 

Fair enough. If everyone was super into politics, we’d be back in Athens with direct democracy. But there are still things you can do: Read the news. If it’s too long and boring, Awturi create a digest of all the important things that happened in the last week. (Link below) Talk to people. Have discussions with your friends about what’s going on. You don’t need to be a connoisseur of politics – if anything, you’ll only learn more. Stop saying you don’t care about politics. You don’t care about mass meetings and the harrowing details of how a government functions. But you do  dare about what goes on around you, because it will affect you on many different levels. To some extent, everything can be political. As a political writer, my aim is to get more youth to realise that being political doesn’t mean being “Labour” or “PN”. Throughout history, political criticism wasn’t only conveyed through politicians. George Orwell, a novelist, Moliere, a playwright, and Einstien, a scientist, all got political.

Benjamin Dalli

Co-founder, Awturi

Message me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/benjamin.dalli

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Read my other articles: www.benjamindalli.wordpress.com/

Awturi’s Weekly Round-up of the news: www.facebook.com/AwturiMalta/

 

 

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